What Equipment Does an Optometrist Need?

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Once you have completed optometry school and are licensed to practice optometry in your state, you are ready to open your own practice. In addition to obtaining a location, the proper permits and inventory, you will need to purchase a number of essential pieces of equipment to have a successful optometry practice.

These items can be costly; fortunately, once you purchase your basic equipment, you generally won't have to make any more major purchases for several years.


An ophthalmoscope is the main tool used by ophthalmologists. It examines the various structures of the eye, including the retina, vitreous and cornea. There are two types of ophthalmoscopes: direct and indirect. The direct ophthalmoscope is a handheld instrument with a battery-powered light and a series of lenses used to examine the central retina. The indirect ophthalmoscope examines the entire retina and has two parts: a light, which is contained in a headband worn on your head, and a lens, which is contained in a handheld device. While looking through the magnifying glass, a special lens is placed in front of the patient's eye that allows you to see the retina clearly.

Chart projector

The chart projector is another basic tool in an optometry practice. The projector creates images of letter and symbol charts used during a patient examination. The patient reads off the projected letters and symbols while looking through a series of lenses, allowing you to evaluate and assess his vision needs.


A phoroptor is used during an eye examination using a number of lenses to determine what prescription is needed for your patient. It is used in conjunction with the chart projector. Typically, the patient sits behind the phoroptor and looks through it at the eye chart as you change lenses and other settings. The patient then gives you feedback on each setting so you can determine her needs.

Exam Chair

The exam chair is an essential piece for your optometry practice, as it is where your patients will sit during examinations. The chair should be adjustable and durable. The chair is likely to be the most expensive piece of equipment needed. The number of exam chairs you need will vary depending on the size of your practice. Many medical suppliers offer discounted deals on used exam chairs.


A keratometer, also known as an ophthalmometer, is another instrument you will need. This diagnostic tool is used to measure the curvature of the anterior surface of the cornea in a person's eye. This is most commonly used for diagnoses of astigmatism and for determining the degree of astigmatism. Modern keratometers use optical sensors and computer technology to measure the curvature of the cornea against predetermined values.